My Love Affair with Bungie

bungie ft 1

If you are reading this then it means you aren’t playing Destiny at this moment. Which is fine. Maybe you’re at work and haven’t received it yet. Or maybe Bungie’s new outing and its first in the next-generation sphere isn’t for you. Which is also fine. I however need to confess my love for Bungie.

Don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly unbiased in my gaming critique. But Bungie have had me sold for a very long time. My experience started when I first got Halo. Back in those days I was a PC gamer, despite owning a PSX  for Smackdown games and a (new at the time) Playstation 2 for Grand Theft Auto 3. So my first Halo experience wasn’t with an Xbox… Actually I did play it on my friends Xbox so I guess it technically was, but I never actually owned an original Xbox. My first full on Halo experience was with the Gearbox ported PC edition. A game that still has people playing its multiplayer even now.

Halo as a PC experience was absolutely incredible. It wasn’t the most graphically superior game even then, but its atmospherics were the same as the Xbox version and were utterly enthralling. There were PC games even then that could trump Halo in many regards but something about it just stuck with me and many others I’m sure. It’s this dedication for scope and environment I think that make Bungie games great and, no offence to 343 Industries, makes the later Halo games/ports a little tepid. But I’ll come on to that.

bungie 1

I have to admit that Halo 2 was a game, because of my lack of Xbox ownership, that took me 4 years to get around to playing. Several things get in the way of gaming when you’re just entering your 20s. You start social gaming a lot more and you don’t get as much time to play. So you sacrifice and dedicate yourself to one game. I had a good run playing the Grand Theft Auto games and the then excellent Pro Evolution Soccer series… The memories *sniff*. I was also dabbling in having meaningful relationships and doing all of that affection rubbish which meant my PC became my Laptop, became my girlfriends possession when visiting me and then became a Sims only zone. I enjoyed The Sims of course but Halo was still installed, hiding in programs menu waiting for us to sneak some playing time in together.

When I realised that the meaningful relationship endeavour was not only harder than gaming but that Microsoft’s offering had superior graphics to my Sims-top and the exclusive Halo 3, I pulled together some money and brought myself an Xbox 360. A full six months before Halo 3. Which meant that it was finally time to play Halo 2. It’s weird now, having seen and played the Halo 2 Anniversary edition, that I was incredibly impressed by how pretty the graphics were and how big the game was. Even for most PC games, and Half-Life 2 was out by this time, Halo 2 had so many different environments, two different story lines that came together, two different playable characters and a story that elevated the series far beyond its humble Science Fiction homage beginnings.

This is where I get to tip my hat to Bungie and explain why I have this love affair and why it was rekindled with Destiny, because they have directly decided which console I have brought for the last two generations. There is something about the feel of a Bungie game. It’s the perfectly designed and executed combination of easy to pick up controlling, ethereal music, absolutely beautiful concept art realised magnificently and imaginative storytelling not yet dictated by the Boxset/Netflix generation. Which is why the Anniversary editions of Halo feel so weird. They are great visually and are completely the same game as they were but the combination of them feels like Halo wearing a mask. It’s a bit like when your favourite footballer leaves your team for a rival and starts getting the goals. You like them still but it feels a bit sad.

bungie 2

Which is why, when Halo 4 came out, I was sanguine. I had bid a fond and hard farewell to Halo with Halo Reach. I expected there to be more of course with the formation of 343 Industries but for my own personal journey with Bungie’s lovechild, it was over for me. And I was happy it was over. We left in a great place and we would always be friends. It was a time fondly remembered and will always bring me some glorious nostalgia when I reach into the shoebox of Halo memories. I wasn’t sure I was ready to let Halo back in to my life again. I enjoyed my brief flirtation with Halo 4. I gave it a lot of time and the same level of achievement hunting and completion I had given all of its elder siblings. But it wasn’t what it was. That spark that Bungie had lit for me wasn’t there and I knew it wouldn’t be. I wasn’t sad or disappointed. I’d enjoyed my time in the new Halo universe. But much like when your favourite bar changes ownership and gets renovated, I knew it wasn’t for me anymore.

So here I am with Destiny. I played the beta and it hit me. That feeling that I last got with Halo Reach was here with Destiny and I was excited. This was a new chapter, a new story but with the same love and affection that I had enjoyed before. That’s when I realised that my love affair wasn’t just with Halo. It was deeper and for the first time since being a PC and PS2 gamer, I fell in love with the way a studio designed a game rather than the game universe/franchise they create. I can describe the many different faucets that make this happen to me but the best way to describe it is simply thus: Fun.

bungie 3

It’s fun to play! It really is as simple as that. Which is why my favourite Halo game isn’t anything directly related to Master Chief, it’s the excellent and vastly underrated Halo 3 ODST. Which is why when Halo Reach ended I was happy and I felt satisfied with the ending of this universe. Which is why when I think of multiplayer gaming I think of the private games I had with many friends of my own creation in the Forge, my version of Predator, and the good times we all had. Which is why my fondest memory of Halo is the 4 player co-op of the final level of Halo 3 where all of us kept crashing our Warthogs to annoy everyone else. And which is why, when I picked up the Destiny beta, I felt like I had picked up the fun where Reach had left it.

Destiny has just finished installing on my Playstation 4 now. I’ve been to friends houses to make sure they receive their deliveries of the game and console while they are at work. The extra content codes and season pass are all redeemed and I’ve made sure that I’ve had breakfast and coffee. Finally, I’ve come clean. I’ve opened my heart about my love for Bungie and now, for the first time in four years, I think I’m ready to fall in love all over again.

[author]

Magicka 2 – Preview

m2 feat

Magicka was a surprise hit written by eight university students from Sweden (what is it with that country and break out hits?). Magicka 2 not only promises more of the same but an inspired improvement on our multiplayer wizard blasting fun.

The wizards are gone, all but extinct thanks to the Wizard Wars. This has left co-operation between wizards rather tense and firey to say the least. Evil however is returning to Midgard as the folklore of the Nords is once again tapped to set a very atmospheric environment. You could imagine this kind of crazy situation being more suited to the table top antics of Acquisitions Incorporated (bonus points if you get that reference), but the ridiculous nature of your incredibly trigger happy wizards is more than suited to the top down view of the snow laden world.

m2 1

I think maybe a good way to describe the Magicka games, and this one in particular, is as an incredibly fun and easy co-op cast-and-slash (rather than hack). I don’t mean easy as in the difficulty. Oh no, the game is as tricky as it possibly can be when two or more crazed wizards are firing their deathly beams in every direction to beat the oncoming hoards of fantastical creatures. What I mean is the ease of how to play the game, the learning curve if you will. It completely adds to the fun whilst you are accidentally killing everything whilst you are learning and not accidentally killing everything once you have learned.

Friendly fire and casual friendly trolling has never been more fun than it is in Magicka 2. Yes you are kind of supposed to work together, because that’s the entire point of co-operative teamwork. But one snatch at a spell and the repercussive fall out is not only vicious but hilarious. This is a game meant to be played by people in the same room or over a voice chat and, having played it in the former capacity, it excels in creating that amusing, anecdotal gameplay. Especially when you start summoning demons. Having done that, it made for a very crazy 30 minutes of hilarity and constant death until we realised that teamwork actually works.

Speaking of the gameplay, it is very easy pick up and play. I played it using a PS4 controller which felt incredibly natural, something the development team was surprised by given their preference for mouse and keyboard controls. The gamepad support makes the spell selection and movement surprisingly fluid and easy to pick up and master. So now, if you’ve had previous experience of the game and want your friends to get involved, this will be a great way to get in to it. The spells themselves are fun. All based on the elemental system (fire, water, etc), the spells combine excellently with multiple people, especially with the healing and the speed at which everything unfolds, it causes a cacophony of light and a hectic firefight. It’s incredibly fulfilling when you cross the streams to combine these elemental powers, almost rewarding yourself for the several moment of derping around beforehand.

m2 2

The game itself has moved on from the previous incarnation with more customisation options for your wizard and many different spell techniques to get the hang of that really gives yourself a bit of a personal style. The newest thing however is the Artifact system. There are special artefacts to find during the game. The best relation I can give to this is Halo’s Skull system. There are things that add to the replay ability of the game like difficulty enhances (extra health for enemies, less for you, etc) and these can be combined. So whatever crazy hardcore self-masochistic difficulty you like to inflict upon yourself and others, it can always be worse. There are more comedic ones too like the sitcom artefact that adds audience laughter, boos, sighs and the like. Certainly makes for some more laughs.

Magicka 2 is coming to PC in 2015 and, as you might have guessed by the controller use, PlayStation 4. Given the strength of the console’s online play and given the amount of units sold AND the more to be sold with the oncoming release of games like Destiny, there could be a lot of demand and take up for this game on the PS4. It ticks the main three boxes I have with co-op based gameplay. 1) Online multiplayer. 2) Easy to pick up and fulfilling.  3) Absolutely hilarious gaming experiences. So there will be lots of interesting and engaging whooping of evil’s hoards by four dysfunctional and explosive wizards, controlled by you, riding from the ruins of Aldreheim in 2015.

[divider]

M2 Gamescom 1M2 Gamescom 2M2 Gamescom 3M2 Gamescom 4M2 Gamescom 5M2 Gamescom 6M2 Gamescom 7M2 Gamescom 8M2 Gamescom 9M2 Gamescom 10

[divider]

[author]